Nyad – 50%
Reviewer Flickchart ranking: 2,693 / 5,358
Nyad recounts the attempts of marathon swimmer Diane Nyad, at the age of 60, to traverse the sea between Cuba and Florida in one 110-mile go. The first narrative feature from famed documentary duo Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo) sees them stay close to subject matter they are familiar with: the individual pursuit of athletic glory over nature. It is anchored by confident performances from Annette Bening as the titular swimmer, and Jodie Foster as friend and trainer Bonnie Stoll.
The drama revolves around Nyad returning to her most public failure, when at the age of 28 she was unable to complete the trip from Havana to Florida. Documentary footage of the original attempt and flashbacks to Diane’s childhood trauma are weaved into the fairly tight narrative. Following the form of essentially every sports drama or biopic, Nyad gives viewers every montage manageable: Foster and Bening training, putting together a team, team bonding on the boat, and going through various struggles. The filmmakers don’t have anything novel to offer visually or structurally, but they make a warm film that places the viewer effectively into each situation and dilemma.
Everything about Nyad hangs on the chemistry of Annette Bening and Jodie Foster. The two stars, whose careers span decades, each have brilliant charm and energy. Bening is infectious as the tireless and trying swimmer whose razor-sharp focus and determination force those in her orbit into action. Foster, as she has since she sat across from Robert DeNiro in 1976, captures every scene she is in. Bonnie Stoll not only protects Nyad from her blind determination and the elements she faces, but also safeguards the team and the viewers from the uncompromising and aggressive side of Nyad’s competitive spirit.
Ultimately, Nyad is a comfortable film. It roots itself in the tried and true tropes of its genres and has far more modest ambitions than its title character. However, the film rightly highlights two wonderful actors performing at the top of the craft. While Nyad doesn’t offer anything unexpected, it is an inspiring tale that not only shines a light on the indomitable spirit of the individual, but showcases how it takes a community of support to attain otherwise unachievable dreams.